An Arizona border agent is facing a huge fine after he accidentally started a fire that burned 47,000 acres during a gender reveal party for his wife, according to Tuscon.com.
Dennis Dickey will be required to pay $220,000 in fines after pleading guilty in federal court to charges of starting a fire without a proper permit.
According to Dickey’s plea agreement, he’s required to pay $100,000 in restitution when he is officially sentenced Oct. 9, along with another $120,000 in monthly $500 payments for the next 20 years.
Dickey will spend 5 years on probation as well.
The fire started after Dickey ignited Tannerite — a highly explosive substance designed to light and burn when shot — according to court documents from U.S. Forest Service Special Agent Brent Robinson.
The target was filled with either blue or pink powder to celebrate and announce the gender of Dickey and his wife’s child, Dickey’s attorney Sean Chapman told the Arizona Daily Star.
“Dickey immediately reported the fire to law enforcement, cooperated, and admitted that he started the fire,” Robinson wrote in official court documents.
The ensuing explosion was caught on film.
Tannerite has been connected to several wildfires in other Western U.S. states. The targets have even been banned in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.
According to Colorado Public Radio, U.S. Attorney John Walsh said of Tannerite targets, “When you shoot these, they blow up, and they blow up pretty spectacularly, which is why they’re popular.”
The targets have caused three fires in Colorado and a total of 16 in 8 western states since 2012.
Walsh says that it’s cost nearly $33 million to fight those fires.
“The reality is you don’t want to have on your conscious [sic] starting a huge forest fire,” he said. “You don’t want on your conscious [sic] or frankly the possibility of bearing legal responsibility for a forest fire that once it gets going ends up burning houses, burning businesses burning not only the forest but puts firefighters at risk. And God forbid that someone actually gets injured or killed.”
The massive fire that Dickey started, deemed the Sawmill Fire, burned for nearly a week in 2017 and ended up costing about $8.2 million.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie A. Chapman allowed Dickey to borrow from his retirement fund to pay the upcoming $100,000 fine.
Chapman declined to order Dickey to pay back the $8.2 million full cost of the fire, comparing it to”getting blood from a stone.”
Chapman also felt that since Dickey had not set the fire on purpose, he would not be charged with arson. The charge that Dickey ended up with was a petty offense, and the judge said that he fully expected Dickey to be able to keep his job as a Border Patrol agent.
While no injuries were reported as a result of the fire, and no buildings were destroyed — some Arizona neighborhoods were forced to evacuate.
“It was a complete accident,” Dickey said in court. “I feel absolutely horrible about it. It was probably one of the worst days of my life.”